Enoch Burke rejects ‘Christmas gift’ offer of prison release as an ‘insult to justice’

Mr Justice Conor Dignam proposes releasing jailed teacher during festive period

Enoch Burke has told the High Court he is not interested in what he called a “Christmas gift” of being let out of Mountjoy Prison during the festive period.

Mr Burke was offered an opportunity to make submissions before the High Court next week on why he should be released from custody during the holidays when the school at the centre of the row will be temporarily closed.

However, he described the offer by Mr Justice Conor Dignam as an “insult to justice”, and he suggested he may not participate in the proposed hearing in any way.

Mr Burke has spent the last 3.5 months behind bars due to his continued failure to obey a court order to stay away and refrain from teaching at Wilson’s Hospital School in Co Westmeath.


He claims his incarceration arises out of his objection, on religious grounds, to comply with a direction from the school to call a student, who wishes to transition to another gender, as “they” rather than “he.”

Earlier this week, Mr Burke’s case came for review before Mr Justice Dignam. Mr Burke again refused to purge his contempt of court and to comply with the terms of an injunction that mirrored the conditions of his paid suspension from the school.

Had he done so, it would have resulted in him securing his freedom.

During that hearing, Mr Burke pleaded with the court to make an order releasing him from prison without him agreeing to comply with the order to stay away from the school.

In light of the fact that Mr Burke was refusing to comply with a valid court order, Mr Justice Dignam declined to release him.

At the judge’s request, Mr Burke returned to court on Friday.

The judge said the school will be closed during the upcoming holidays, so the court will consider submissions from the parties on whether Mr Burke should be released from Mountjoy during that period. Those submissions are to be made before the High Court next week, the judge said, adding that this was something that had not been contemplated when the matter was before him a few days earlier.

Barrister Rosemary Mallon, for the school, said it had no objections to the court’s suggestion.

However, Mr Burke told the judge that he did not want “a Christmas gift” from the court and repeated his claim that the orders against him that have resulted in his imprisonment are “manifestly unlawful.”


He wants to leave prison and would like nothing more than to be “at home before the fire” with his family for Christmas or singing Christmas carols with his students, he said.

However, he said he did not want to leave prison in this manner, which he described as “an attempt by the court to salvage its conscience by offering mercy or clemency to me”.

He said that he wishes to leave prison with his position that the orders against him are wrong and a breach of his right to religious freedom “wholly and totally vindicated”.

To do otherwise, he said, would be dishonest to his beliefs, his rights and to the people of Ireland.

He said he had only been given short notice of the court’s direction for him to be returned to court and he complained that he had not been told in advance why the judge wished to address him. He also asked if there was some sort of ulterior motive for this.

In reply to Mr Burke, Mr Justice Dignam said Mr Burke was perfectly entitled not to attend court or make any submissions on the court’s suggestion regarding his potential Christmas release. The suggestion of the release arose purely due to the school holidays.

Mr Burke’s case will be mentioned against in court on Wednesday, the last day of the current legal term.